Many Los Angeles women avoid alcohol during pregnancy; however, a number of them do not. Unfortunately, some drink to excess. In February 2011, researchers from the Center for Maternal and Child Health, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (Baltimore, Maryland) published the results of a study of 12,611 mothers who delivered infants from 2001 to 2008. The purpose of the study was to estimate the prevalence of prenatal alcohol consumption; the degree of healthcare provider screening and discussion about alcohol use during pregnancy was assessed. : Almost 8% of the mothers reported alcohol consumption during the last three months of their pregnancy. The highest degree of late-pregnancy alcohol consumption was reported by mothers who were non-Hispanic white (10.9%), aged 35 years or older (13.4%), and college graduates (11.4%). Of the 12,611 women, 19% of the mothers noted that their prenatal care provider did not ask whether they consumed alcoholic beverages; 30% reported that a healthcare provider did not counsel them about the consequences of alcohol consumption on their developing infant. The level of screening and counseling was lowest among women who were non-Hispanic white, aged 35 years or older, and college graduates.
The authors concluded that, despite the substantial number of women who continue to consume alcohol during pregnancy, healthcare providers do not routinely assess alcohol consumption or counsel all women about its harmful effects. Interestingly, counseling was least prevalent among the same groups of women with the highest rates for drinking. They added that provider alcohol assessment, as recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General to prevent alcohol abuse, needs further promotion as a routine part of prenatal care.
Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is associated with a large number of adverse health effects for both the mother and her developing fetus. It is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation in the U.S. and is also associated with many other physical, cognitive (thinking), and behavioral disabilities, which are termed as the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder increases as alcohol consumption during pregnancy increases; however, no known level of alcohol consumption at any time during pregnancy is considered safe. Thus, the Surgeon General Advisory on Alcohol Use in Pregnancy cautions that women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should avoid alcohol consumption.
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